Category: Five Live; Sport
The four-time Olympic Gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent believes Chinese gymnasts as young as five are being abused in a bid to win gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
He is in the Chinese capital, for a series of special reports for BBC Radio Five Live, where he watched around 40 children in training.
"I've been thinking about it a lot. I was wondering whether it's a kind of Western approach, compared to an Eastern approach. And, at the end of the day, I definitely think those kids were being abused, definitely.
"It was a pretty disturbing experience, I've got to say. I know, of course, it is gymnastics and that sport in particular has to start their athletes young; and I am, after all, in China which is pretty unremitting in its drive to win the gold medal tally in Beijing; but I was really shocked by what went on."
Sir Matthew was visiting the Shichahai Sports School, a boarding school that trains gymnasts. He found one boy in the gym with red marks across his back after apparently being beaten by his coach.
The four-times gold medallist's translator spoke to one of the gymnasts and reported:
"Actually, the boy told me they got beaten by their coach. If they made a serious mistake, the coach, well, beat them and they got used to it. They take it as a normal thing. The boy said they don't hate the coach. Actually, they think that's a good thing, think the coach cares about you. They like you, so they train you strictly."
Phillip Silacci from the International Gymnastics Federation spoke to Five Live Breakfast about the allegations. Silacci told Breakfast that they would talk to the Chinese about the allegations at the upcoming world gymnastic championships in Melbourne.
He said: "We take this case very seriously. because this is the opposite of the politic in this field."
This is the second of Sir Matthew's special reports for Five Live Breakfast. The final piece for Breakfast is tomorrow (Friday) and there will be an in-depth report on Sport on Five on Monday 21 November from 7.00pm.
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